In my blog post on the 10 things to look out for when buying an e-commerce system I have decided not to go sequentially down the list. So today I am going to jump ahead to point 5.
In point 5 of my earlier blog article I briefly discussed the issue around choosing a system that does just EDI. Here is what I said.
5. Choosing a system that does only EDI. Sound like an oxymoron? Well not really, today an e-commerce platform should do more than just EDI. EDI is just another data flow into and out of an organization. So why have one solution for each data flow. Consolidate things into an e-commerce platform that can handle EDI, web services, spreadsheets, XML, CSV files etc. If you are not then you are establishing islands of technology that in the long run will be more expensive to maintain.
In the old days, the days of the rip and read EDI system people looked for an EDI system that basically replaced the old fax machine. Remember the fax? I remember an early sale we made where the company was using a rip and read solution and the old dot matrix printer ran 9 hours a day spewing out the orders that were then manually entered into the order entry system. The company couldn’t keep up – they were two weeks behind in their order entry. In 45 minutes we drove in two weeks of orders! The rip and read system was relegated to the garbage bin. So 15 years later has anything really changed? In my estimation no not really. Today most companies still fall into the single solution trap.
The wide spread use of web based portals for example are simply an evolution of the old rip and read EDI solution that serve no real productivity purpose to an organization. They do make sense in some very limited circumstances, but for most organizations looking at the EDI flow as a single monolithic stream is a mistake.
Today a company must stand back and look at all the data flows into and out of the organization. EDI may be one flow, but information comes in and out in other ways. Unfortunately what happens in most organizations is a system is bought for EDI, a custom program is developed to handle orders that come in via an Excel spreadsheet, another solution is cobbled together for orders that come in via email and if there is a web store in the mix the orders usually get integrated to a piece of paper. Does this sound efficient. It works but the creations of islands of technology serve little real purpose except to cost more in the long run.
So how should a company look at things? Look at all the data you want to integrate. I’ll bet you’ll find that EDI is just one data flow in and out but that there are probably others. So does it not make sense to consolidate this into a single platform, where there is an audit trail, the ability to control not only the flow but also how the data is manipulated? What you end up looking at is a middleware e-commerce platform that does EDI but it doesn’t do just EDI. So if the world has evolved since the days of rip and read EDI, should your approach to data flow also not change? Anyone care to comment?